selling food on amazon fba

Selling Groceries on Amazon FBA (Essential Tips to Get Started)

January 10th, 2014

UPDATE 6/2/2014: Within the past 2 weeks amazon has begun requiring sellers to obtain approval before selling food on Amazon.  Sellers who had previously been selling in the grocery category were “grand fathered in” as long as their metrics in the category were up to par.  In order to see the requirements to sell you can begin by clicking this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=14113001

You will need to log in to your amazon seller account in order to view the information in the above link.  The next step is to click the “view requirements” link for the “grocery & gourmet foods” category.  On this page you can find the requirements to sell food on amazon, and find out the steps that need to be completed in order to be granted the approval.

Here is the original post:

I have been getting quite a few questions via email and comments on the blog about selling groceries on amazon since my December results post.  In today’s post I will cover some of the things that helped me when I started selling food on amazon FBA. I will be focusing on selling groceries on Amazon FBA, but much of this could be applied to merchant fulfilling groceries as well.

The first thing to note about selling in the grocery category is that there are a few more rules in place compared to many other categories, as someone will be consuming the product.  One of the main rules relates to expiration dates on the products, the expiration date has to be a certain number of days in the future to be for sale on amazon, and a certain number of days in the future to even send into FBA.  I am not going to share what the current dates are, as they are often updated by amazon, and I don’t want this post to provide inaccurate information in the future.  However, you can find the information you need to know on amazon, and this link should help you get started: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200339730.

Another important piece of information to know when selling food on Amazon is that there are restrictions on when you can send in “meltable” products. One example might be chocolates. Information on when those can be sent into amazon FBA can be found in the link above as well.  Be sure to keep this in mind, because if you send in a meltable product outside the date range that they are accepted, you run the risk of your product be disposed of upon arrival.  Do your homework, and follow the rules and you will be good to go.

Assuming you still want to try out selling groceries through FBA after you have done some research on the requirements, the next step is finding grocery items to sell on amazon.

I will provide a few tips from what I have learned so far from selling groceries through FBA.  As far as what to look for as candidates to sell, the first place to start is with items that are only found in your region.  Try to think of things that people in different regions do not have access to, but would be willing to pay a premium to have shipped to their door.  A good way to try to think of these items is, when visiting friends or family that live in a different region than you, are there any grocery items that they ask you to bring with? This can give you an idea, and people will pay a premium online for items that are not available to them locally.

The other major tip that I have is to pay attention to the upcoming holidays, and related to this, what items will people be looking for related to this holiday? and after this holiday has past, what will be on clearance?

For example, after Halloween, stores had Halloween candy on clearance and I bought quite a bit to resell on amazon.  Here’s a picture of just some of what I found (taken first week of November 2013):

Clearance Halloween Candy

Clearance Halloween Candy

These are just a few of the items I purchased, and most of them were at least 70% off the retail prices.  This was my first year really selling in groceries, so I didn’t buy more than about 10 of an individual item, but I sold the vast majority of what I purchased within 2 months.   After Halloween was over, I began to think about what people would be buying for Thanksgiving, stuffing? pumpkin pie filling? cranberry sauce? Many people purchase these items on amazon.

Keep this thought process throughout the year, and you will constantly be buying items that people want for the upcoming holidays, and then selling them the things they want but can no longer find after the holidays.  This is where a lot of my grocery numbers have come from.  Currently, you may still be able to find some Christmas candy and items on clearance.

These 2 tips should help to give you an idea of where to get started.  I would also recommend scanning random items throughout the grocery store to see if they present resale opportunities, I have found items this way as well.  When you do find something, look at similar items.  Let’s say you find a brand of taco sauce that sells well on amazon, scan other types of taco sauces, and other items of the same brand of the taco sauce.  Oftentimes finding one item will lead to finding several others.

I hope this post helps you get started.  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments in the comments section below.  You can also read through my current list of the tools and services I am using related to my amazon business.

UPDATE 2/25/2014: I just did a blog post reviewing Grocery Goldmine by Jessica Larrew and Beth Maus to help you decided if this book will help you learn how to sell groceries.  HERE is the link to my post.

One last item to note, next week there will be a guest post from one of my friends who has been selling online on a part time basis since July of 2013.  He is starting to see some very good results, and is willing to share his story and a few things he has learned along the way.  Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out!

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37 responses to “Selling Groceries on Amazon FBA (Essential Tips to Get Started)”

  1. Derek says:

    Thanks for the post on selling in groceries. I just purchased my first grocery item (online sourcing) and am waiting for it to arrive at my house so I can get it listed. As you noted, my item was a Christmas / winter candy that is now on clearance.

    One question that I do have is how do you prepare your grocery items? By that I mean, do you polybag things like the bags of candy in your picture? Or did you send those in as-is?

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Derek,

      Thanks for your comment, and great to hear that you are in the process of your first grocery item for resale. As for your question on poly-bagging, if I sent the item in just as 1 bag of candy, then I did not put them in a polybag. However, some of these items I sold as multi-packs (planning another post in the near future related to multi-packs), and in that case I put them in a poly bag to create the multi-pack. Some people will polybag everything they send in (I am not one of them), and that is up to them. I should also mention that when you go through the shipment creation on amazon’s website, they will point out if specific items need to be polybagged. Hope this helps.

      -Ryan

      • Derek says:

        Thanks for the feedback Ryan. It is always helpful to hear how others have approached something.

        I’ve not yet wanted to explore the realm of multi-packs, but since you mentioned it I thought I’d mention that Jessica Larrew just sent out an email to her mailing list with links to some of her material on preparing multi-packs. Not sure if you’ve seen it so I thought I’d mention it.

        • Ryan Grant says:

          No problem, and I am actually subscribed to Jessica Larrew’s mailing list and saw that email shortly after responding to your comment. I may reach out to her to see if it is ok to include a link to some of her info on multipacks on my blog. No point recreating the wheel, if she’s already done the work.

  2. Greg says:

    What is considered meltable – is there a particular temperature? I imagine it can’t be too high as you sent m&m’s in. Thank you for your post!

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Thanks for checking out the blog! Per amazon’s website, a temperature sensitive product is, “Temperature-sensitive products must be able to withstand at least a minimum temperature of 50 degrees and at least a maximum temperature of 100 degrees for the duration of the product’s shelf life without adversely affecting product quality.”

      Amazon only gives the example of chocolates as meltable on their website, and I honestly can’t think of any other type of meltable product besides an item that contains chocolate. Hope that helps, and here’s the link to the amazon page with more info if you are interested (towards the bottom of the page): http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200339730

  3. Linda says:

    May I have a bit of that candy coen, please? Just asking… 🙂

  4. Jake says:

    Thanks for the info. What kind of margins do you generally look for on grocery items? Also have you had any issues selling things like Valentine specific candy after the holiday is over?

    • Ryan Grant says:

      For grocery I am generally looking for a minimum of a 50% ROI. Meaning if I spend $10, I am looking for a profit of $5. The actual profit margin can vary quite a bit to obtain this ROI depending on the price of the item, so ROI is the target I use. As for selling Valentines candy after the holiday is over, I haven’t done this with Valentines specifically before, but I didn’t have many problem selling Halloween and Christmas candy after these holidays were over. Hope that helps, and let me know if you have further questions.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  5. Wayne says:

    I love this blog. You input on retail arbitrage is some of the highest quality out there.

    I’m just getting started (I literally just downloaded Profit Bandit!), and am worried about buying inventory that I can’t turn around. I know that with Profit Bandit I can find out if I can be profitable when the item sells. But, I’m still worried about getting the buy box and just selling the item at all. My question is, how do you lower that risk/ uncertainty of knowing if your item will be sold? I’m worried that my inventory will just sit at Amazon while other sellers get the buy box.

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Thank you for the kind words!

      As far as your questions, amazon tends to rotate the buy box among each seller who is priced competitively. They really want all of their sellers to be successful, as they make money whenever we sell items. As far as reducing the risk of items sitting around, I would recommend buying items with as good of sales rank as possible (the lower the number the better) and this should mean you are buying items that will sell quickly.

      I would recommend sending a few things in and seeing what happens. Learning by doing is the best way to go in my opinion. Let me know if you have questions along the way.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  6. Hey Ryan,

    You can link to my stuff any time! Thanks for providing awesome information to your readers.

    I just came out with a grocery guide, did you see it? http://jessicalarrew.com/members/aff/go?r=616&i=8

    I look forward to reading more from you.

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hey Jessica,

      Thanks for the comment! I have been a big fan of your blog for quite awhile! I did see that you put out new grocery guide, but I haven’t picked it up yet, I just may have to in the near future.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  7. […] Selling Groceries on Amazon FBA – A few tips to get started […]

  8. marie says:

    Hi Ryan

    you mentioned sales rank and that you recommend buying items with as good of sales rank as possible, where do you get the sale rank from ? where is it displayed
    Thanks a lot !

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Marie,

      If you have an app such as Profit Bandit or Scanpower, it will be displayed on this app. IF you do not have either of these, you can find it by going to the product detail page of an individual item, and then look at the “product details” section of the page. Let me know if you have further questions on how to find it.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  9. Lei says:

    Ryan,

    I have two questions:

    1. I bought some grocery items that are listed and sold on Amazon, but mine is different in weight than those. Should I create a new listing or is it possible to create a variation (e.g. parent-child, not sure if I can create a parent-child not being the “owner” of the original listing? Have you created any new listings and if so, where do you get your UPC codes? Amazon mentioned GSI as one source and people on related forums talked about ebay being another.

    2. Do I need to put an expiration date sticker on each individual grocery item as well as on the outside of the multi-pack? I saw the video done by Amazon and it’s kind of unclear to me.

    Thanks much,

    Lei

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Lei,

      For your questions:
      1. If your product matches exactly, then I would contact amazon seller support and ask them to update the weight information. If the product is not exactly the same then you could consider creating a new listing. I have not created any new listings that have required buying a UPC, so unfortunately I can’t provide any guidance on that process currently.

      2. My understanding of for mult-packs is that you just need it on the outside of the mult-pack packaging and not on each individual item. This is at least how I prepare my multi-packs.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

      • Lei says:

        Ryan,

        Thanks very much for your reply. I’ll keep you posted should I contact Amazon CS.

        Have a productive week!

        Lei

        • Ryan Grant says:

          Hi Lei,

          No problem! That would be great if you let me know if you hear back from amazon. Hope you have a productive week too!

          Best Regards,
          Ryan

  10. Lei says:

    Ryan,

    Hope you are having a great week. A quick question on whether or not I should cover each barcode in the individual products within a multi-pack since I have a new barcode on the outside.

    Thanks much,

    Lei

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Lei,

      So far I am off to a good start to the week, hope you are as well!

      When creating a multi-pack, you should make sure that there are not any barcodes that could be scanned except for the item label that you print off. If there are barcodes on the individual items, then they should be covered up, with that said if you can arrange the items in the multi-pack in a manner that the barcode is not scan-able from the outside of the mult-pack packaging, then there is no need to cover the individual barcodes.

      Let me know if you have further questions.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

      • Lei says:

        Ryan,

        Thank you so much for your prompt response. I am redoing a few of the multipacks and leaving others “as is” when the barcodes are not scannable from the outside. Lessons learned on how not to take any shortcut.

        Lei

  11. Rachel says:

    Hi there and thanks for sharing your helpful advice. Every time I try and sell candy on Amazon it says this item is restricted. I called Amazon seller support and they said I can only sell candy if I have the manufacturer’s explicit permission. I’m assuming you didn’t get such a thing to see your Halloween candy lot so I am obviously doing something wrong. Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Rachel,

      There has been a recent change in amazon policy regarding who is allowed to sell in the grocery category. In particular, new sellers who have not sold in the grocery category will not be immediately eligible and have to go through an approval process. I will be updating this post in the next few days, but they have changed their requirements. I will be doing some research in the few days and will plan on posting an update at the top of this post.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

      • Will Lopez says:

        Hi Ryan!
        I appreciate the great content you have provided us the learners!

        I two days ago requested approval for selling groceries and what they are asking me for is 3 invoices of the product I’m going to sell. I don’t have inventory yet I wanted to be approved first before buying to sell. I look forward to that update on that matter as well. Thanks in advance!

        –Mr. Lopez

        • Ryan Grant says:

          Hi Mr. Lopez,

          You are welcome! I will be updating the content shortly, I should have it done within the next 24 hours.

          Best Regards,
          Ryan

  12. Lisa says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Love your posts. I just made my first grocery scouting trip and have a few questions before sending the items in.

    1. Do grocery items need to be sent in separate shipments from other inventory or can they be sent in the same box that has inventory in other categories?

    2. If you are sending in individual grocery items and not full cases of a product, do you need to put an expiration label (36 pts or larger) on each item or is the expiration date on each package sufficient?

    Thanks for your help
    Lisa

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Glad to hear it! For your questions:
      1. No, they can go in the same box with other categories.
      2. If the packaging has the expiration date in this format MM/DD/YYYY then there is no need to put a label on it. If it is not in that format, then you are required to put an expiration label on the item.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  13. B.J says:

    I recently sent a request for approval to sell grocery items on amazon fba. Its not that simple. The process is quite involved. You need to know hwat you are going to sell and have expamples of it etc..

  14. […] If you don’t think you are quite ready for this type of invest, you can check out my post on Online Selling Experiment from January  2014 with a few free tips to get started selling groceries on amazon HERE. […]

  15. Alisa says:

    I am new to Amazon FBA, and I bought a whole box full of things to send in for my first shipment to Amazon… a few of those things being grocery items… before I realized this was a category you needed to be accepted into. From what I’ve read, it seems like I will have to sell for a while before I can apply and be accepted. Is that correct? It doesn’t sound like they would accept a new seller, especially if I don’t have a business website or license. Please let me know. I would be sad to find out that I wasted my money on those products! Although, I suppose I could try to sell them on eBay or craigslist or something. Your advice is appreciated. 🙂

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Alisa,

      I believe you could apply to sell for the grocery category right away. As long as you can provide them with proof, I think you should be able to apply and hopefully get approved.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  16. Bobby Spencer says:

    Hi, I’m late to the thread, but I am toying with the idea of upgrading and selling grocery items via amazon. I recently moved to Luxembourg and noticed that theres a HUGE demand with the expat community for american products, especially american holiday items.

    Do you have any advice on how I can source long shelf-life items such as pumpkin puree to import to the EU?

    Thanks!

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Bobby,

      Thanks for the comment. I don’t have any advice on that specifically as I don’t have any experience with that directly. It sounds like a good opportunity though, so if it’s something you are interested in, I would recommend seeing if you can figure out how to do it.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

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